I finally took a breath. My daughter, a high school senior, called less than 24 hours ago and said, “Another girl was supposed to have the senior skip day party but now she can’t so it’s okay that I told people they could come to our house, right?”
“Isn’t senior skip day tomorrow?” I asked tentatively.
“Yes, but I don’t think everyone will come, ” she said with a touch of panic in her voice.
“There are 80 seniors, right?” My mind raced to figure out how I could pull this off as my husband was out of town, I was headed to my son’s baseball game, had another commitment after his game, a meeting first thing the next morning and two more later that afternoon.
“Ok, Sophie,” I said softly.
“Thanks, mom, I gotta go, I’ll call you later.”
I raced through the next day, showed up for the meetings, filled up my cart at Costco, but snapped at my kids and my husband, when he called. As Sophie and I picked up tables at my sister-in-law’s house, she said, “Mom, sometimes you take the joy out of things because you get so uptight and anxious. This is not a big deal, it’s just some kids coming over. We just all want to be together.”
Ha! Just some kids coming over?! I wanted to yell at her and tell her that she doesn’t understand what it really takes to feed 60-80 people, that my house is not as clean as I want it to be, that I am hosting a graduation party for her in a month, that I was a bit annoyed that I would not be able to go watch my oldest son’s baseball game that afternoon, that I was overwhelmed even before she sprung this upon me, that I wish I would have had more notice, and that I wish my husband was home and didn’t travel so much…
But I didn’t yell, and back in the car I mentioned a few of my issues but mostly just listened. She was right. “I’m sorry, Soph, I just have a lot on my plate right now. Are you excited to have everyone over?” I asked.
“Yes, I am, Mom,” she replied. “Thanks for doing it.”
“My pleasure,” I smiled at her as my heart softened.
But then it was back home to the flurry of her friends barreling in and tossing hot dog buns, watermelon, corn, brownies and drinks on my kitchen counter and firing up the grill. The evening swirled by as my husband and son returned and another mom, and my sister and brother-in-law came by. My two younger kids tried to steer clear of the chaos, as more and more seniors arrived, giddy, after a day of skipping school and possessing that incredible feeling of finishing high school. They ate, talked, laughed, played volleyball, jumped on the trampoline and signed yearbooks.
Suddenly I stopped, walked over to the window and sat down in a chair. I took a breath and stared outside at these kids who were finishing high school. I saw two boys (young men) perched up in the tree house heckling a classmate and then ducking down so she couldn’t see where the call was coming from. “They are still like little boys,” I said to my friend. But they aren’t little boys any longer, even if they still want to play like them.
I saw my daughter laughing, appearing so happy and carefree. I wanted to go hug her and tell her how happy I was for her and glad that she had invited all her friends to our home. I wanted to say how excited I was that she had reached this stage of life where she had freed herself from the angst of adolescence and was right smack dab in the middle of the “I’m free and life is an empty canvas” stage of teen land.
At that moment I felt so grateful for her, for the 18 years that I have had with her, and for all that she has taught me about life. The 18 years seemed like a blip, a sliver of what I prayed would be her long and lovely life. As I heard her roar of laughter, I blinked and she was three, playing ring around the rosie with her friends, squealing with delight when it was time to “all fall down!” A sense of peace flooded over me with the realization that my first-born baby was 18, happy and free, and that she still emotes the same joy as she did when she was a little girl.
Thoughts of the mess outside and the dishes in the sink snapped me out of my trance. “Thanks so much for hosting this for us so last-minute, Mrs. Burton,” the seniors said with sincerity, as they filed out of my house. My heart was full of the many blessings that my daughter has given me, including the gift of filling my house up with her friends’ laughter and youthful energy, and the reminder to not let my stress to get in the way of enjoying the moment.
“This goes down as one of my best senior memories,” one of my daughter’s closest friends said as she hugged me goodbye. “Me too,” I said with a smile as I hugged her back, struggling to let go.